Men From Among You
No one has ever seen the Body of Christ, the church. The church is not built; it is still being built, and it is not yet completed. How careful, then, must the builders be.
In many of our churches pastors are “called” (often by majority vote) from outside the local community. Some remain in that community for many years, but that is the exception. Frequently pastors move from church to church and from place to place, without setting down any roots in any one community.
Let us notice how far this is from the New Testament pattern. For example, go back to the Book of Acts and remember how the early church selected qualified men for the special work of “serving tables,” that is, of meeting the practical needs of the congregation (Acts 6). The men to be chosen had to meet three qualifications. First, they were to be “from among you.” Second, they were to be “of good report.” Finally, they were to be “full of the Spirit and wisdom.”
Today we often overlook the first of these requirements, to our great disadvantage. We may understand the phrase “from among you” in two ways: these newly-selected workers were to be Christians and not pagans, and they were to be of the number of the (Hellenistic) disciples rather than imported from another community. How logical indeed! As local men, they would have a vested interest in the success of the church. They were already members of it, known by it, and loyal to it. They were not “hired” from the outside as is so often the case today. It was doubtless such local men that Titus appointed as elders on Crete (see Tit. 1:7).
Might I suggest that it is this lack of group loyalty, this absence of community identity, that keeps many good pastors at a distance from their flocks and renders their service less effective than it might otherwise be? The world thinks nothing of moving from job to job and from place to place for reasons of professional advancement. But the church is not to be of the world. No church has any business acknowledging as leaders men whose loyalty to the local congregation is questionable. When the going gets tough, or when greener pastures beckon, men without a stake in the health of the church or roots in the community will find it easy to move on and move away.
It is impossible to read the account in Acts 6 and not be impressed with the importance it attaches to home-grown leadership. When the Body of Christ begins to realize this we shall be at the end of a vast amount of confusion in systematic teaching about Christian ministry. We must not speak slightingly of any leader who comes into the church from the outside, if it be the will of God. At the same time, the biblical pattern seems much more sensible. If those who served tables in Acts 6 were chosen from within the local Body, and if Paul sought to appoint as elders men who were already active within their own congregations, the church of today would be foolish to ignore such a pattern.
July 14, 2006
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.